News Journal (Delaware)
By Shahrazad Encinias
June 24, 2015
The state Senate on Tuesday advanced legislation that would let those who are in the country illegally obtain driving privileges.
The legislation, if approved by the House of Representatives and Gov. Jack Markell, would make available a special card for undocumented residents starting Jan. 1.
Markell is in support of the program, said Kelly Bachman, a spokeswoman for the governor. The current legislative session ends June 30.
Under the terms of the bill, applicants would have to submit fingerprints at a police station, sign an affidavit confirming their identity, and show state tax returns. They also would have to provide proof of foreign nationality or a school identification card and show that they've lived in Delaware for two years.
The information would be forwarded to the State Bureau of Identification and Department of Motor Vehicles. Applicants would have to meet the same standards as any other driver getting a license, including insurance and testing requirements.
Cards would be marked "Not Valid for Identification" and "Driving Privileges Only."
It will cost an estimated $317,652 to start the program and an additional $112,652 in annual costs.
The vote Tuesday was 17-1, with Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover South, casting the only no vote. He praised the legislation's sponsors, saying they were "trying to address a very difficult problem." But Bonini, an announced candidate for governor in 2016, said the legislation is unfair to legal immigrants "who are waiting in line, lawfully and legally, to get into this country."
"We're asking Delaware taxpayers to pay half a million dollars for services for illegal immigrants," Bonini said in testimony on the Senate floor.
The cards were recommended by a 25-member legislative task force created in 2014. Supporters say the cards are needed because undocumented immigrants are already operating motor vehicles and will help them get insurance coverage.
Critics have raise concerned the cards could be mistaken as official state identification.
Eleven states, including Maryland, have similar cards for people in the country illegally. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates Delaware has 20,000 undocumented immigrants, or about 2.4 percent of the population.
"They're trying their best to live by our laws," said Sen. Bryant Richardson, moments before he voted in support of the bill Tuesday.
Legislation sponsor Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West, said the fingerprint requirements are in place on a trial basis. The task force will review the program next year, he said.
Wilmington City Councilwoman Maria Cabrera said the licenses would help improve safety. Undocumented residents "are part of our society," said Cabrera, Wilmington's first Hispanic female City Council member.
"We have to stop looking at legality and look at the humanity level of this. It comes down to having humanity," she said.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com